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Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences - Wayne State University

Wayne State University Physical Therapy Program Annual Report 2022

A letter from the program director

Dear friends and colleagues,

It has been exciting this past year to see the return to campus as the Wayne State University Doctor of Physical Therapy Program was able to shift from online and hybrid to a fully in-person class schedule as of fall 2022. Once again, we can focus on curricular improvements and research accomplishments, and enjoy the opportunity that in-person learning and interaction provides in getting to know our tremendous students.

Our program continues to believe that each student brings a unique set of life experiences and strengths that adds value to the program. It is based on that belief that we strive to foster the well-being of our students. Our enhanced peer mentoring program and addition of structured supplemental instruction has provided the opportunity to focus on learners’ success.

With this success, we have seen wonderful academic outcomes, with a 97% first-time pass rate on the NPTE as our graduates continue to perform well above the national average on all sections of the exam. Our graduates have gone on to work in a variety of practice areas; while many of them remain local a few have ventured off to other states. We are proud of our WSU graduates who were accepted into residency programs in and out of the state in Pediatric, Neurological and Sports specialties.

Our faculty and research labs continue to distinguish themselves by obtaining over $8 million in grant funding. Eight of our 12 core faculty have funded grants this year. The return to in-person has also led to the return of conferences, and we were ready. The faculty and students presented 38 peer-reviewed presentations (platform and posters) this year. In addition, the WSU Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has developed a research mentorship program with our clinical partners (across the street) at the Detroit Medical Center/Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan.

We are excited to begin 2023 with a renewed sense of energy that can be felt in the building and around the labs. Yet none of this would be possible without the help and support of our community partners and individuals who help in both big and small ways. From our generous donors who support our program and provide student scholarships; to our associate faculty, lab instructors and clinical educators who share their expertise; to our research participants who give their time and energy.

Thank you to all for your support of the WSU DPT Program – you make us Warrior Strong.

Kristina R. Reid, PT, MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Director
Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Wayne State University

P.S. Be sure to follow us on social media to keep up with the DPT program! 


A note from Martha Schiller

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our many clinical educators that have worked tirelessly with our students with their part-time and full-time clinical experiences. I know it has taken extra energy, effort, knowledge and skills during the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank you all for continuing your ongoing commitment to clinical education, our students, and our WSU program. You have helped our students to develop the characteristics of adaptive learners, in the midst of the pandemic: a growth mindset, resiliency, motivation and curiosity. You are their role models, helping them on their journey to becoming the PTs they want to become.

Thanks to so many of you that have participated in our continuing education offerings and for demonstrating the importance of lifelong learning to our students. Whether you participated in one of the CCIP courses (finally in-person!), or the online implicit bias training, or attended our PT symposium in May or College Research Day in October … thank you. Thanks to all of you that continue to demonstrate that life-long learning is critical to your ongoing professional development and for modeling this for our students. Please make sure you share what you are doing so students see this even if it is not during their time at your clinic with you.

I am also continuing with ongoing professional development by attending the APTA CSM and ELC conferences to stay abreast of current clinical education issues and to participate in the CI Training Forums. Please note that there will be a new, shorter, and updated version of the CPI that becomes available in June 2023. WSU will be an early adopter of this tool and we will plan an early roll-out for all our full-time clinical experiences. Please keep an eye open for the upcoming training information in the spring. I will be offering both virtual and in-person options.

Clinical education at WSU is expanding in 2023 to include a global health experience in Ecuador. I went on an exploratory trip in May 2022 to explore this global health initiative visiting two community clinics in Santo Domingo, the University of San Francisco de Quito, the Q-RA Medical Clinic and the Hospital de Los Valles in Quito. From these contacts, three senior PT students are scheduled to spend four weeks at a hospital/clinic in Quito and then a one-week interprofessional global health experience at the Hombro a Hombro Community Clinic in Santo Domingo June 9-18, 2023, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky. The WSU SPTs will be joined by other WSU medical, nursing and hopefully pharmacy students and faculty. If there are any pediatric PTs that are interested in joining this new venture, let me know.

With immense gratitude,

Martha Schiller, PT, DPT, MSA, C/NDT
Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Director of Clinical Education
Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Wayne State University

Spotlight on Dr. Moh Malek

The human side of being a teacher-scholar

It may surprise people, but Professor of Physical Therapy Moh H. Malek does not see his academic accomplishments as what defines him. For Malek, being a husband and father of two daughters (Amelia, age 5, and Violet, age 2) is more rewarding than any academic achievement. In addition to his family, Malek values the relationships he maintains with childhood friends and the friendships he has developed with people at WSU.

“I also appreciate the relationships I have developed with my students, which goes beyond merely being their research mentor," he said. Malek's excellent rapport with students was honored by the 2022 Wayne State University President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Aside from spending time with his family, Malek also enjoys working on his lawn. Many of Malek’s current and former students said, “Ask Dr. Malek to show you pictures of his lawn, it’s like you are at the 18th hole of The Masters.”

It takes a village

Moh Malek and family“I am very fortunate to have a wife who understands the demands and expectations that I place on myself,” said Malek. Indeed, this may be because his wife, Bridget, is an accomplished individual in her own right who also sets high standards in her profession. Bridget is the president/CEO of a nonprofit organization that provides staffing support for individuals with developmental disabilities. “Having a strong support network can make a huge impact on work-life balance. It is challenging at times, especially with two kids and third on the way, but we make it work," Malek said. Bridget and Moh are expecting their third child, a boy, in late spring 2023.

Sources of inspiration and motivation

In addition to his family being a source of inspiration and motivation, Malek also is inspired by the quote Robert F. Kennedy paraphrased from the playwright George Bernard Shaw. “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Alumni Spotlight: Haley Boccomino '22

This January, Haley Boccomino '22 began a neurologic physical therapy residency at the DMC’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. They look forward to the exposure to different types of rehabilitative neurology.

“For example, there are patients with different neuroglial needs, from amputees and post-surgical patients to spinal cord injuries and cases at the Children’s Hospital. I’m excited to have those additional experiences and to continue to be open-minded like I did when I fell in love with this specialty.”

At the end of the 13-month residency, Boccomino will sit for another board examination. Upon passing, they will be considered a specialist in neurological physical therapy. Read more about Haley here.

PT Research Symposium

Jill HeathcockOn May 18, 2022, we hosted our fifth annual PT Research Symposium. The event featured a keynote talk by Jill Heathcock, MPT, PhD, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy and Director of the Infant Lab at The Ohio State University in Columbus. Over 100 participants attended Heathcock’s presentation, “Creative Approaches to Pediatric Assessment and Rehabilitation,” via Zoom. 

The keynote was followed by research presentations from the WSU DPT Class of 2022.

We are excited that our next PT Research Symposium will be held in person on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, 4-5 p.m., in the WSU Applebaum Auditorium. Our keynote speaker will be M. Terry Loghmani, PhD, PT, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN. Dr. Loghmani is a pioneer in the area of quantifiable soft tissue manipulation (QSTM).

RSVP for the PT Research Symposium

Past symposium keynote speakers include Drs. Fabrisia Ambrosio, Mary Hastings, Kornelia Kulig, and Amy Bastian.

Grants and awards

Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Nora Fritz recently received two awards from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society: a three-year, $545,163 award to investigate feasibility, acceptability and efficacy of a backward walking training program compared to a forward walking training program on balance and falls in persons with multiple sclerosis, and a five-year, $425,000 mentor-based award that will allow her to train postdoctoral fellows in multiple sclerosis rehabilitation research programs.

Professor of Physical Therapy Moh H. Malek received two grants from the DMC Foundation. One grant aims to determine the efficacy of functional massage on neuromuscular fatigue. Malek developed this research idea in collaboration with Doctor of Physical Therapy Program students and Assistant Professor Jennifer Dickson, who uses functional massage with her patients. Another grant funded Malek's research project, “Mitochondrial transplantation therapy and the impact on skeletal muscle aging.” The overall research focus of Malek’s laboratory is to examine skeletal muscle fatigue. His first line of research focuses on examining energy production of the muscle using rodent models, whereas his second line of research focuses on motor unit recruitment/activation of the muscle during exercise in human models.

Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Joseph Roche (center) won first place in the Regenerative Rehabilitation Pitch Competition, earning $10,000 to support his research on regrowing functional muscle tissue. The event was hosted by the NIH-supported Alliance for Regenerative Rehabilitation Research and Training (AR3T) in Austin, TX, in October 2022. The competition, funded by AR3T, was designed to support novel directions in regenerative rehabilitation research.

In addition, Roche's leading paper on a COVID-19 treatment possibility, published in the FASEB Journal early in the pandemic, has been recognized as one of the top-cited articles, as well as one of the top 10 most downloaded articles, between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, per data from Clarivate Analytics. Roche co-authored the paper with his wife, Renuka, an OT professor at Eastern Michigan University.

Neuroimaging and Neurorehabilitation Lab

NNL logoBoth motor (e.g., walking, strength, balance) and cognitive (e.g. thinking, memory, attention) factors interact to influence rehabilitation outcomes. The overarching goal of the Wayne State University Neuroimaging and Neurorehabilitation Lab, led by Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Nora Fritz, is to develop novel rehabilitation strategies to target motor and cognitive decline in individuals with neurodegenerative diseases. In the lab, Dr. Fritz mentors students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, as well as the Wayne State School of Medicine's Translational Neuroscience Program.

Hear Nora Fritz discuss her research on a recent 4D Deep Dive into Degenerative Diseases podcast. 

With gratitude

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program is extremely grateful for the generous donors who provide us with financial support. Thank you for making a difference for our students and our program!

A student's words of wisdom

"Take a step back during the moments you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed and remind yourself that you are living your dream! You’ve worked so hard ... and now you’re here and doing it! Instead of complaining or competing, remember your 'why' and stay positive."

Read the full Q&A with DPT student Jenna Rossio '25